Friday, 10 June 2016

Review: Sunset at the Villa Thalia at the National Theatre

Sunset at the Villa Thalia
National Theatre (Dorfman)
Reviewed on Thursday 9th June 2016

Playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell, known for his devastatingly good play The Pride (Royal Court, Trafalgar Studios) makes his National Theatre debut with Sunset At The Villa Thalia - a sweet gem set in Greece.

Jet-setting American couple Harvey (Ben Miles) and June (Elizabeth McGovern), meet young holidaying couple Theo (Sam Crane) and Charlotte (Pippa Nixon) and convince them to put an offer in on the small villa that the latter are renting. Paying practically peanuts to its desperate owners - who are relocating to Australia for financial reasons - nobody can foresee the potential ramifications this steal will have on everyone's future. As Greece's economic stability wavers, so do the relationships in the otherwise idyllic Mediterranean setting.

There's lots to enjoy about Simon Godwin's simple production - namely its fine cast, who all ground Campbell's naturalistic dialogue in a believable truth. There's also some lovely moments of unexpected humour - particularly from McGovern's brash, lush June, who stumbles around the stage after one too many fruit punches, and gets the biggest laughs. As the play reaches it (fairly gentle in the grand scheme of things) climax, there are some delicious exchanges between characters, marking Campbell out as a fine inspiration for natural dialogue. 

Although the real inspiration for the piece is entirely heavy-handed - it's so obviously pointing the finger at the West's influence on Greece's economic downfall - there is also something to note in its simplicity. 

Not to the tastes of the more highbrow theatre-goer who wants to work harder to find the hidden messages amongst the drama, this sweet play is worth putting on you list of summer holiday destinations. 

Reviewed by Oliver Dowdeswell

Sunset at the Villa Thalia runs at the National Theatre until Thursday 4th August.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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